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Rams prevail over Warwick in District play-in, 51-38
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
It could be argued that the Warwick boys basketball team began the playoffs long before its District Three Triple-A play-in game last Friday night against Central Dauphin.
Having started the season 3-7 for the second time in three years, the Warriors battled back into contention with eight wins in their final 12 games. Although they fell short of the playoffs in 2010-11 following a surge in the second half of the season, they managed to get there this time, with a 37-25 win over Penn Manor on Feb. 1 proving to seal the deal.
Unfortunately for Warwick, however, it was a short-lived stay.
Zayd Issah, a Penn State University football recruit, scored a game-high 15 points to lead three Central Dauphin players in double figures, as the 18th-seeded Rams ended the 15th-seeded Warriors’ season with a 51-38 victory. Ryan Beaver and Brian Laird chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively, and CD outscored Warwick 14-3 in the second quarter to grab a lead they never relinquished.
While the Warriors ended their season with an 11-12 overall record, the Rams improved to 10-13 heading into a first-round match-up against newly-minted L-L League champion — and 2nd-seeded — McCaskey.
"That’s a really good team," Warwick coach Jeff Landis said of Central Dauphin. "That’s a Division-One athlete in the middle and I thought Jake did a really good job on his hands. But they’re not what their record indicates by any means. They’ve had the same deal we did. Number five (Beaver) missed over half the games, number one (Issah) missed a ton of games for football and stuff like that. So they’re better than their record. They play in a tough league. So I knew we were going to have to play well to win but I had confidence in us that we could do that. So it hurts to say good bye to those seven (seniors)."
Friday’s game was the first time Warwick played since ending their regular season 10 days earlier in a 47-38 loss to Manheim Township. Warwick had a scrimmage in that time, although it wasn’t one of their best efforts.
"There was no emotion, we were very quiet," Landis remarked."But then to the seniors’ credit, they came back and had tremendous practices on Wednesday and Thursday. They decided they didn’t want to be done yet and I thought they played hard tonight. It wasn’t to be, but they played hard."
That was evident in the first quarter. Issah went to work inside and scored seven points early to lead the Rams to an 11-3 lead, but senior Matt Engle’s three-point play ignited Warwick on a 14-2 run which gave them a 17-13 advantage with 1:35 remaining in the quarter. Junior Jake Shillady, who finished with a team-high 14 points, buried two of his three triples during that spurt by the Warriors.
"Jake did step up and Jake’s capable of that," Landis said. "You saw that against Penn Manor and you saw glimpses of it. It was a little streaky like the rest of us, but Jake’s definitely capable of doing that … Down the road, Jake will have a lot of responsibility this summer to lead and stuff like that."
Laird’s 3-pointer, one of five for Central Dauphin, completed the first-quarter scoring, but Warwick still led 17-16 after one.
"The problem with that (17-16 score)," Landis said, "is for us to win this game, it had to be in the 40’s."
Central Dauphin, which built a dominant rebounding edge in the game, regained the lead when Laird nailed a triple in the opening minute of the second quarter. That also propelled the Rams on a 14-1 run, capped by Matt Lapkowicz’s 3-pointer which gave CD a 30-18 advantage with 2:20 to go in the half.
The Warriors, meanwhile, started the quarter 0-for-6 from the field before Shillady converted on the post with 1:50 remaining, ending a scoring drought of nearly eight minutes. Overall, Warwick was 1-of-8 in the stanza, while attempting just two shots inside the three-point arc, and trailed 30-20 at the intermission.
"We made shots (in the first quarter), so I don’t want to say fool’s gold because we were getting good shots," Landis said, "but it’s hard to shoot the ball that well from there all night … If you live by the ‘three,’ you die by the ‘three.’ But the kids always give it everything they’ve got and fight to the end."
They did on this night, as well. After CD took its biggest lead of the night, 35-20, on Laird’s jumper midway through the third, Tyler Stief’s layup started Warwick on a 10-2 surge to cut the Rams’ lead to 37-30 with 51.6 seconds to go in the quarter. Stief finished with nine points in the Warriors’ attack. But that would be the last time the Warriors were within single digits, as Beaver sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 40-30 and then CD outscored Warwick 11-8 down the stretch to put it away.
Afterward, Landis stood outside of his team’s quiet locker room and provided some perspective.
"I’m proud of them and proud of the seniors (Chris Devlin, Matt Engle, K’Shawn Mickens, Tyler Morris, Tyler Stief, Eric Wagaman and Colby Weit)," Landis said. "It’s not the result we were looking for. There was a lot of adversity this year. Two weeks ago, we were playing Cedar Crest with the ball with a chance to secure second place (in Section One). The kids could have quit when they were 3-7, but to their credit they didn’t. They put themselves in a lot of playoff games. Tonight was the last playoff game and we didn’t get it done. But … they’ve created some great memories for the past two years, the buzzer beaters and the ability to just pull things out at the end because they trust in each other and believe in each other." More WHS BOYS, page B-6